Willamette Defeats Highly-Regarded William Paterson and UW-Eau Claire on First Day of Leadoff Classic

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

(SOFTBALL) PANAMA CITY, FLA. ­-- Willamette University defeated two of the most respected NCAA Division III teams in the nation on Friday, March 9, on the opening day of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Leadoff Classic. The Bearcats downed William Paterson University (N.J.), 9-1, then outscored the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, ranked #7 in NCAA Division III, 8-4.

Willamette pounded out 15 hits against William Paterson and added nine hits against UW-Eau Claire, while improving to 4-3 on the season. William Paterson fell to 0-2 after losing to the Bearcats. UW-Eau Claire dropped to 0-1.

In Willamette’s win over William Paterson, the Bearcats scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings for a 4-0 lead. WPU tallied one run in the bottom of the sixth to get within 4-1, but the Bearcats plated five runs in the top of the seventh to pull away from the Pioneers. WU’s fifth inning outburst included an RBI double from Geneva Hale (Jr., Shoreline, WA/Shorecrest HS) and a two-RBI single from Caitlin Waugh (Fr., OF, Lodi, CA/Tokay HS).

Starting pitcher Nikki Franchi (So., RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) of Willamette struck out six batters and allowed five hits while throwing the first six innings against WPU. Casey Jarzombek-Clark (Jr., RHP, Aloha, OR/Aloha HS) struck out one batter and did not allow a hit while pitching the final inning of the first game. Franchi improved to 1-2 on the season, while Ashley McDonald of William Paterson, who threw every inning for the Pioneers, fell to 0-1.

Molly Barnes (Sr., 3B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) went 3 for 5 against William Paterson. Marissa Richards (So., DH/UTIL, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS), Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) and Nicole Wallace (Fr., 2B/C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) each went 2 for 4 for the Bearcats.

William Paterson earned just five hits during the game. Jessica Reibis led the Pioneers with two hits in two at bats. Alicia Albert scored the Pioneers’ only run, while Casey Sierra earned WPU’s only RBI.

Against the nationally-ranked Blugolds of UW-Eau Claire, Willamette rallied from a 2-0 deficit after an inning and a half. The ‘Cats produced two runs in the bottom of the second inning to tie the game, 2-2, then moved in front 4-2 with two more runs in the third inning. WU added three runs in the fourth and another run in the sixth for an 8-2 lead.

Franchi and Hale hit back-to-back home runs to start the second inning. In the third inning, Franchi hit an RBI double to drive in LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) with the go-ahead run, as the Bearcats took a 3-2 lead. An error on the play also allowed Franchi to score.

Willamette’s three-run fourth inning started with back-to-back singles by Cari Schruth (Sr., C, Roseburg, OR/Roseburg HS) and Gilgan. Both runners eventually scored. Wallace, who drove in Gilgin with a double to right field, crossed the plate later in the inning to give the Bearcats a 7-2 margin. Barnes doubled to right field during the sixth inning to bring home Gilgan with Willamette’s final run of the game.

UW-Eau Claire registered two runs in the seventh inning, but left the bases loaded. The Blugolds began the inning with a double by Casey Leisgang and a triple by Rachel Paulus. A groundout by Mallory McKinney allowed Paulus to score, cutting Willamette’s lead to 8-4.

Jill Janke batted next and grounded out to Gilgan at shortstop. A single, a walk and another single filled the bases and brought the tying run to the plate in Shannon Barone. Jarzombek-Clark, who relieved starter Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Central HS) with one out in the sixth inning, got Barone to fly out to left field to end the game.

Auer improved to 2-0 with the win. She struck out three batters, allowed eight hits, gave up two walks and limited UWEC to two runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched. Jarzombek-Clark registered two strikeouts, walked one batter and gave up four hits and two runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief.

Franchi and Gilgan each went 2 for 2 with two runs scored against UW-Eau Claire. Franchi also earned two RBIs and walked twice. Gilgan received one walk. Schruth went 1 for 1 and scored once against the Blugolds.

Leisgang went 2 for 3 for Eau Claire, while driving in a run and scoring twice. Paulus was 2 for 4 with a triple, one run scored and an RBI. Overall, the Blugolds amassed 12 hits, including two doubles by Leisgang and one double by Haack.

The Bearcats will complete pool play on Saturday, March 10, when they take on another highly-regarded opponent in Central College (Iowa) at 12 p.m. (EST). If the Bearcats defeat Central, Willamette will win the four-team pool and be assured of a spot in the Gold Bracket, which will determine the Leadoff Classic champion. The six pool winners and the top two second place teams will advance to the Golf Bracket.

The Silver Bracket and the Bronze Bracket will be filled by the remaining teams in the 24-team field. Bracket play will start Saturday afternoon and will conclude on Sunday.
Game #1 - Willamette 9, William Paterson 1 - Box Score
Game #2 - Willamette 8, UW-Eau Claire 4 - Box Score